Joe Joyce lit up Pavilion Six on Friday afternoon with three rounds of controlled malevolence against the smart Kazak Ivan Dychko to guarantee silver and put him in with an excellent chance for gold on Sunday – as well as revenge against his old French rival, Tony Yoka.
The super-heavyweight final will be the last event of these Games, as was the bout which closed London four years ago, when Joyce’s long-time friend and training partner, Anthony Joshua, won the gold medal. Joshua, who also beat Dychko on the way to the final, watched from the BBC commentary position, and was impressed.
“It was good to see him there,” Joyce said. “I was in the red corner and could see him. It was good to have his support.”
Joyce’s sheer strength and determination – and no little skill – told on an opponent who ran but could not hide, and he got the 29-28 approval of the Puerto Rican Jose Bonet, Clemente Carillo of Ecuador, and the Brazilian Marcela Paula Souza.
“He’s got a great chance,” Joshua said of the man with whom he has sparred thousands of rounds.
Joyce was happy with his performance, and immediately shifted focus on to Yoka, who disparaged the Londoner’s skills before the tournament.
“I’ve beaten him before,” Joyce said. “He avenged his defeat and it’s time for me to get my win again against him. I watched his fight. I thought it was close. It will be good to beat Yoka again. He said I was a beast but not a smart boxer. Hopefully I can prove him wrong.”
“It was a tough first round,” Joyce said of a win that looked secure once he had worked out Dychko’s style. “He was very quick, mobile, agile. He was keeping me on the end of the jab, and it was quite hard to close him down. I thought I’d be able to cut the ring off a bit better, and catch him, but he was making it difficult for me.
“But then in the second and third round, I was catching him. I think he was tiring at the end. I started to land my shots and his face started to mark up. I knew I just had to keep that up. The body shots slowed him down.”
He stalked Dychko relentlessly from the opening bell, the Kazak content to box on the retreat, but he did not do a lot – apart from dragging Joyce to the canvas with him near the end of the first round. And the judges all gave it to the back-pedaller, which contradicts the guidelines that were confirmed in the wake of the Michael Conlan fiasco.
Both had settled into this pattern, with Joyce making all the running, Dychko pecking away under pressure, and to reasonable effect in the second. It was becoming obvious the Londoner needed to land some heavy artillery to either stop or subdue his opponent. A cracking right near the end almost did the job. Curiously, the three selected judges gave Joyce’s less impressive round to him, to level proceedings and deliver the possibility of a barnstorming finish.
Dychko went to the floor in mid-ring, but from tiredness coming out of a clinch, rather than the concussive effects of a Joyce blow – of which there were plenty in the home stretch. He was giving his opponent a proper going over and seemed within a right hand or two from a stoppage.
In what has become a ritual here, the fans began banging their feet on the metal supports in the stands in appreciation of the action.
Both raised their hands at the end – which was some feat for Dychko, who had struggled to do so in the final minute of boxing.
Joyce did his capoeira schtick (the Brazilian martial art/dance that he learnt from his mother) and everyone went home happy – which was not the case in the first semi-final.
In that fight, the formidable Filip Hrgovic beat up on Yoka for most of the nine minutes – yet lost. This was one to add to the injustices delivered earlier in the week on Conlan and Vassily Levit.
Yoka, off the pace but bravely walking through a brain-numbing barrage of solid, impossible-to-miss head shots, tripped on his own shoe laces at 1.29 of the third round.
Hrgovic is a beast, and deserved to be in the final, but Ukraine and Puerto Rica went 29-28 for Yoka, with Denmark at least closer to the reality, seeing it by that margin for the Croatian.
The decision should work in favour of Joyce, actually – as the Croatian looked by a distance the more formidable opponent: big, uncomplicated and mean. Yoka resembles Dychko and will no doubt box on the back foot. If Joyce can cut down his space, he should be too strong for him over the full course.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010